United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 9, 2004.
HARRY RODRIGUEZ, N-81196, Plaintiff
KENNETH BRILEY, et al., Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Harry Rodriguez sued Defendants captains and
officials at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his Constitutional rights to meals and
showers. Defendants moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated
herein, Defendants' motion is granted.
Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th
Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986)). The party seeking summary
judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). A party will successfully
oppose summary judgment only if it presents "definite, competent evidence
to rebut the motion." Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Roebuck
& Co., 233 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court "considers
the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor." Lesch v.
Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002),
Plaintiff Harry Rodriguez is an inmate at Stateville. He is serving a
sentence for murder, home invasion, and burglary. (R. 38-1, Def.'s
Statement of Facts ¶ 1.) Defendant Briley is the warden of
Stateville. Donald Snyder is the director of the Illinois Department of
Corrections. Defendant George DeTella is the Assistant Director of the
Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendants Hughes and Stigler are
captains at Stateville. (R.15-1, First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-8.)
Beginning in the summer of 2000, Plaintiff contends that correctional
officers at Stateville forced him to miss between 300 and 350 meals and
at least 15 showers because of violations of the Storage Box Rule. (R.
40-1, Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts ¶¶ 5, 11, 12, 16.)*fn1 The
Storage Box Rule required inmates to stow most of their belongings in a
box at any time they were outside of their cells. Failure to comply with
this rule resulted in confinement of the inmate to his cell.
(Id. at ¶ 23.) Because Plaintiff was confined to his cell,
he could not
shower or eat lunch or dinner.
Defendants contend that they had no personal knowledge of Plaintiff
missing any meals. (R. 38-1, Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 14-32.) In
response, Plaintiff points to his own deposition testimony, and that of a
former cell mate, Marcus Hubbard, detailing the meal and shower
deprivation and Plaintiffs complaints to guards. Plaintiff contends that
he complained directly to Hughes, Stigler, and DeTella, and sent letters
of complaint to Briley. (R. 40-1, Pl's Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts
¶ 13.) Plaintiff further asserts that Defendants Briley, DeTella, and
Snyder deprived him of showers and meals by acting through their agents
at Stateville. (Id.) In deposition testimony, Defendants deny
that they knew about Plaintiff missing meals or showers in connection
with violation of prison rules.
Defendants move for summary judgment on two separate grounds. First,
Defendants argue that deprivation of food and showers as punishment for
violation of the Storage Box Rule is not a violation of the Eighth
Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment. Second,
Defendants argue that they did not personally deprive Plaintiff of meals
or showers, and are therefore not liable under Section 1983.
I. Constitutionality of the Storage Box Rule Punishment
To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that the
prison failed to "provide for his basic human needs" because of
deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials. Reed v.
McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 852 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Helling v.
McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32, 113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22 (1993));
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970,
128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994); Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago County,
165 F.3d 587, 590 (7th Cir. 1999). This showing involves a two-part
test requiring the plaintiff to show that: (1) the deprivation was
objectively serious, and (2) state officials acted with the "requisite
culpable state of mind, deliberate indifference. . . ."
Dunigan, 165 F.3d at 590 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834). A deprivation is objectively serious if it results in a denial of
"the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer,
511 U.S. at 834.
The Seventh Circuit has held that "in some circumstances an inmate's
claim that he was denied food may satisfy the first Farmer
prong. This is not to say that withholding of food is a per se
objective violation of the Constitution; instead, a court must assess the
amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed v. McBride,
178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999) (noting that the inmate had special medical
needs and that "no extraordinary or extenuating circumstances appear to
exist" that would preclude an Eighth Amendment claim). Withholding
showers for a sufficient period of time could also be a Constitutional
violation, although Plaintiff would have to miss a significant number of
showers in order to fall short of "the minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities." See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
In this case, Plaintiff has only alleged that he missed 15 showers
(including four consecutive showers over a two-week period) because of
violations of the Storage Box Rule.*fn2 It is undisputed that Plaintiff
had access to running water and toiletries in his cell. Although
Plaintiff complains that bathing in his cell disturbed his asthma
condition, this disturbance is not
sufficient to turn a lack of merely 15 showers over the course of
several months into an objectively serious deprivation. Further, although
he claims to have developed a rash from not showering, Plaintiff has not
supported this complaint with any medical evidence.*fn3 Defendants'
motion is therefore granted with respect to Plaintiffs alleged missed
With regard to food, Plaintiff has testified that prison officials
prevented him from eating between 300 and 350 meals and that he
repeatedly complained directly to Hughes, Stigler, and others about this
deprivation. Defendants offer their own testimony, contending that they
were not aware of any such deprivations. As a result, the Court is faced
with a "swearing contest" between the parties to determine whether
Plaintiff was forced to miss meals for violating a prison rule. Payne
v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) ("As we have said many
times, summary judgment cannot be used to resolve swearing contests
between litigants."). Accordingly, summary judgment is not proper on the
issues of whether Plaintiff missed 300-350 meals and whether
Hughes and Stigler knew about the deprivation.
There is some question, however, as to whether this deprivation of food
was objectively serious in Plaintiffs case. It is undisputed that
Plaintiff had breakfast delivered to his cell every morning.*fn4 It is
also undisputed that Plaintiff ordered food from the prison commissary
and that the commissary food was delivered directly to Plaintiffs cell.
Nevertheless, the deprivation of
more than 300 meals over the course of a year even with
breakfasts and commissary items-could have a serious effect on an
inmate's health. The Court is reluctant to rule that Plaintiff, who
apparently left breakfasts uneaten for the sake of more sleep, can pursue
an action based on withheld lunches and dinners. Because of the
discussion in Section n below, however, such a ruling is not necessary.
II. Legitimate Penological Purpose
Even if Plaintiff can show that the deprivation Of meals is an
infringement of his Constitutional rights, Defendants will prevail if
that infringement is reasonably related to a "legitimate penological
purpose." See Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 214 (5th Cir. 1998)
(recognizing that "courts will uphold a prison regulation claimed to
infringe a prisoner's constitutional rights if it is reasonably related
to legitimate penological interests") (internal quotes omitted); see
also Calhoun v. DeTella, 319 F.3d 936, 939 (7th Cir. 2003) (noting
that strip searching a male inmate in front of female
officers would not violate the Eighth Amendment if the search was
"conducted for a legitimate penological purpose"). The remaining
question, therefore, is whether or not a deprivation of meals in
punishment of Storage Box Rule violations is related to a legitimate
Ruling on Defendants' motion to dismiss, Judge Shadur approved of the
reasoning of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cooper v. Sheriff
of Lubbock County, 929 F.2d 1078 (5th Cir. 1991). In Cooper,
prison officials denied food to an inmate because he refused to dress for
meals in conformity with prison rules. Id. The Fifth Circuit
vacated the district court's dismissal because the record did not include
evidence of the actual regulation at issue. Without such evidence, the
appellate court could not determine if the rule (withholding food for
attire) reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest.
Id. at 1084. More recently, the Fifth Circuit again addressed
the prison meal-deprivation issue in Talib v. Gilley,
138 F.3d 211, 215 (5th Cir. 1998), In that case, the inmate plaintiff
alleged a Constitutional violation because he refused to kneel with his
hands behind his back when meals were delivered. As a result of his
refusal, prison guard withheld meals. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the
dismissal of Talib's Eighth Amendment claim, citing guards' safety
when feeding inmates as a legitimate penological interest. Id. at
The Talib court offered a reminder to prison inmates that is
particularly appropriate in the case of Plaintiff Rodriguez. "Given the
ease with which Talib could have complied with reasonable prison
regulations, he in a very real sense carried the keys to the kitchen
cupboard." Id. at 216 (citing Uphaus v. Wyman,
360 U.S. 72, 81, 79 S.Ct. 1040, 1046-47, 3. L.Ed.2d 1090 (1959)
(internal quotes omitted)). In Talib, the Fifth Circuit also
noted that Cooper might have come out differently if the
district court had made a finding with regard to "whether the regulation
in question was reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest."
Talib, 138 F.3d at 215 n. 4.
In this case, the Warden's Bulletin clarifying the Storage Box Rule
states that "[i]f an inmate fails to store required property in his
storage box, he will not be allowed to leave his living area for [any]
service, program or activity (except in cases of court-ordered writs,
attorney phone calls, medical reasons or Administrative Review Board and
Prisoner Review Board proceedings)." (R. 38-1, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
Ex. A.) It is undisputed that this rule serves a legitimate purpose at
Stateville, notably the interests of security, order, and cleanliness.
See Parker v. DeTella, No. 98 C 644, 1998 WL 164817 (N.D. Ill.
Apr. 6, 1998) (noting that the
Storage Box Rule served certain "fairly obvious" penological
purposes). Because prison policy requires inmates to leave their cells
for lunch and dinner, however, the Storage Box Rule also effectively
withholds meals as punishment for its violation. This effect is
also in line with legitimate penological interests. To hold otherwise
would require prison officials to offer lunch and dinner room service to
the more unkempt inmates at Stateville.
Plaintiff has neither argued that he did not violate the Storage Box
Rule nor has he provided any reasons for his alleged violation of the
rule. The Storage Box Rule simply requires inmates to put away their
belongings before they leave their cells. As such, the Court bids
Plaintiff to take heed of the warning issued by the Fifth Circuit in
Talib. Given the ease of complying with the Storage Box Rule,
Rodriguez "carried the keys to the kitchen cupboard. . . .He chose not
to unlock it, and it is not for the federal courts to intervene in his
personal decision." Talib, 138 F.3d at 216. Because Plaintiffs
alleged deprivation of food resulted from the operation of a legitimate
penological purpose, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.
Because of this ruling, the Court need not consider Defendants'
alternative arguments focused on the culpability of each individual
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.